Most winter outdoor enthusiasts will have heard of cat skiing where giant snow cats carry you high up into the alpine for sweet backcountry ski runs without the effort of climbing to the ridge tops first. But, what if you could take this approach for snowshoeing too? Imagine riding in a comfortable snow cat to reach the best snowfields and alpine basins before stepping into your snowshoes for an afternoon of fun playing in deep powder! This is White Mountain Adventure’s newest tour in the Canadian Rockies at Fortress Mountain.
White Mountain Adventures offers several different snowshoe tours all promising to get you “on top of the world” in the Canadian Rockies. At the Sunshine Village Ski Resort in Banff you get to ride a gondola and chair lift to access alpine meadows and cross the Continental Divide on your snowshoe tour around Sunshine Meadows. I have done this tour twice now and love how easy it is for the average person who may not have much experience snowshoeing, or be in top physical condition for climbing up into the alpine. Thanks to the gondola and chair lift ride, you spend most of the tour hiking and running downhill through fluffy powder with only a short climb back up to the ski resort at the end.
White Mountain Adventure’s second tour operation runs out of an old ski resort in Kananaskis Country called Fortress Mountain. Arriving at the former ski resort, you can see the remnants of chair lifts, the day lodge, and other buildings that have been shut down and closed since 2002. Since then, the area has become popular with movie productions including the movie “Inception” with Leonardo DiCaprio with most of the mountain scenes filmed at the Fortress site.
Today you won’t see a commercial ski resort at Fortress Mountain but you will see the snow cats of KPOW Catskiing, and numerous groups practicing avalanche safety skills out of the University of Calgary. Finally, you will see van loads of snowshoers unloading for a day spent touring the back bowls and area ridge tops.
Fortress Mountain Snowcat Snowshoeing
White Mountain Adventures describes their new snow cat tour with these words:
“The snowcat ride itself is great fun as it climbs up and over the Canadian Ridge and takes us towards our snowshoe drop-off area. From the drop-off, we then head down through larch and spruce forests blanketed in snow and wander in an alpine basin of” elephant rocks”. And just like cat skiing, once we reach the bottom and have had enough fun in the snow for one day, we’ll get picked up and carried back over the ridge!
The tour is open to groups of seven or more people and runs daily through the end of April.
For information on prices, and to book a tour, visit the White Mountain Adventures website.
Snowshoeing on Top of the World at Fortress Mountain
For those who want a bit of exercise with their snowshoe tour and want to save a few pennies as well, you have the option of doing the regular Fortress Mountain snowshoe tour where you’ll climb to the top of the Canadian Ridge without assistance from the snow cats. This is the tour that I did and I can assure you that you’ll get your workout for the day. The climbing is never too strenuous though and you’ll do all uphill sections on a groomed trail rather than climbing through powder to the ridge top.
Snowshoeing on Top of the World at Sunshine Meadows
If you have time for two snowshoe tours while visiting Banff or Kananaskis, or you are lucky enough to be an Alberta local, it is highly recommended that you try the tour at the Sunshine Village Ski Resort. More information and photos can be seen in my previous story I wrote: A New Year and a New Sport.
You can also book your Sunshine Village snowshoe tour through the resort itself and add a Swiss Fondue on to the end of your tour. I did this last year and it was a fabulous end to an amazing day spent playing in the alpine. The story can be read here at Snowshoe and Ski Vacations for the Whole Family.
Gone are the days where ski resorts were for skiers or snowboarders only. Today, you can visit a resort anywhere across North America and find great snowshoe trails, tours, and options for the non-skier. Skiers no longer get the best scenery! And thanks to tour companies allowing us to use resort gondolas, chair lifts, and even snow cats, we don’t have to do extra work on our outings either.